Archives For Sacred Harvest Festival

When the Sacred Harvest Festival was finished, the first thing I noticed while wandering through the airport was how strange it was that nobody was in a sarong. Or naked. Or drumming. It was a shock to my system, all these pants and suits.

Even the babies drum at Sacred Harvest Festival.

Even the babies drum at Sacred Harvest Festival. Photo by Nels Linde.

Pagan culture is sensory, and visceral, and delightfully messy. Meeting times are announced with music, worship is celebrated with movement, and the body is displayed as a sign of reverence, an act of liberation, and an expression of joy. Spend a week in the woods with a parley of Pagans and you start to believe that this is how the world actually is.

It was the ordinary aspects of the Sacred Harvest Festival that charmed me the most. The ever-present hospitality from the festival presenters made me feel at home from the moment I arrived, and I was never without a plate of food or a cup of some fine beverage in my hand. I was greeted with kindness, curiosity, and excitement, and I had the distinct feeling that I was welcome and wanted. There was a keen sense of fellowship at this gathering from all directions, and it wasn’t just “Minnesota nice” either. It felt completely genuine, and without pretense.

While ritual plays an important part in the festival, it was the post-ritual drumming and fire-dancing that seemed to attract a great deal of engagement from the festival attendees. In conversation with Kenny Klein, another of the featured national guests, I learned that this shift of emphasis away from ritual and more toward drumming and dancing is becoming more common at Pagan gatherings across the country, which leads me to wonder if the conversations about praxis v.s. belief that periodically dominate the Pagan blogosphere are actually representative of what is happening within the Pagan community.

To know the Pagan community primarily through the internet is to miss out on a great deal of nuance and subtlety. Our digital text lacks the contours of our faces, the undertones of fragrance and sound that are present when we gather in the flesh. Pagans make interesting noises. We say things that make your head cock a little to the side. We have a way of combining sacred symbolism with the sardonic that can infuriate the pious and delight the irreverent. We are a fascinating mixture of the holy and the profane, sometimes flipping either definition on its head. And I love that about us.

This all only became clear by being at a festival for a full seven days. Immersion is the best way to learn a new language, and immersive Paganism is no different. Share a meal with someone from a different tradition and you’ll come to know the myriad of ways that you mirror one another. Pass a horn in person to someone who, online, you regularly disagree with and you just might begin forging a real and meaningful friendship in spite of your differences. I didn’t realize this before, but most of my interactions with Pagans have been lacking the very embodiment that so many of our theologies hold dear.

Pagan festivals are staging grounds for transformation, should one wish to engage that deeply. When done well, they foster a safe space to learn, to practice, to rejoice, to inspect, and to play. Sacred Harvest Festival provided this to me, and to many of those who joined me in workshops or at rituals. During my unPaganism workshop we broke apart our assumptions about what it means to be a Pagan. We talked about our Euro-centric tendencies, our assumptions about ritual, and even began to examine our own susceptibility to the us/them dynamics that plague other religious communities. We did this with grace, with kindness, and with an inquiry that I found to be quite refreshing.

A youth workshop with Teo Bishop. Photo by Nels Linde.

A youth workshop with Teo Bishop. Photo by Nels Linde.

There were others in attendance at the festival who had a challenging time feeling included by a community that feels so inclusive otherwise. The festival is in its 16th year, and there are many young people who have been coming to this gathering for their entire lives. I led a workshop for the youth, and found myself in conversation with them about their hopes for the festival and their desire for more youth-centered activities. They told me about a schism which took place in the community a few years back, and how before that time there was an entire portion of the festival grounds reserved exclusively for the youth. This “Youth Camp” provided kids the opportunity to camp away from their parents and to build a culture of their own. It was a cherished experience, and one that the Harmony Tribe youth miss very much.

In the grand scheme of things, our communities are young. Even those among us who reach back into the archives of history in search of an example are still a part of a relatively new community of religious practitioners. Our polytheist, or monist, or dualistic monotheist expressions are a mashup of the old and the new, and it is during events like Sacred Harvest Festival that we create the opportunities to re-examine our own definitions. We get a chance to look at what a Druid is, or a Witch, or a Hellenic, or a Hawaiian. Our skyclad dancing becomes a lovely metaphor: we show ourselves to one another; we allow ourselves to be seen, to be heard, to be known.

Festival culture is a petri dish, and the culture of a festival is enhanced and affected by each of the attendees. Sacred Harvest Festival feels very Wiccan-centric to a Druid who’s spent the past several years in community with reconstructionists, but this is not inherently a bad thing. My friend, Lamyka (Lahela MP Nihipali) reminded me during our unPaganism discussion that a core, central Pagan value — perhaps the most important one for us to remember — is pluralism. We need not forfeit our individual cultural traditions in order to take part in the greater Pagan community. We need not all become one thing in order to get along.

During this week in the woods I witnessed reconstructionists politely declining attendance at pan-Pagan rituals, siting religious reasons, and then I watched those same people engage in a different syncretic ritual because they found room within that particular ritual for their own cultural and religious interpretation. They found a way to both honor their own values and practices and observe a communal experience of celebration.

I find this flexibility to be a sign of great maturity, and an indication that the Pagan community has a bright future yet. If one among us can maintain her own sense of religious and cultural boundaries while still engaging in close, intimate contact with those of a very different perspective then there is evidence that we are not completely lost. We are not destitute, or fracturing beyond repair. We are not, as some blogging wars would have you believe, on the verge of meaninglessness.

Ritual Space at Sacred Harvest Festival. Photo by Mike Bardon.

Ritual Space at Sacred Harvest Festival. Photo by Mike Bardon.

We are young. We are learning. We are, should we wish to be, capable of great things. We offer generously of ourselves. We demonstrate hospitality in the most remarkable ways. We love and honor our Gods, and we do our best to love and honor each other.

This is what I witnessed at Sacred Harvest Festival. This is what gives me hope about moving forward as a contemplative Pagan, a bard, and a perpetual seeker.

King Arthur vs. Archeology: British Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon (no, not that Arthur Pendragon) has failed in his attempt to force reburial of human remains found at Stonehenge, claiming the 5000-year-old cremated remains were of a royal “priest caste,” potential founding fathers of Britain.

Stonehenge

“Mr Justice Wyn Williams refused to give King Arthur permission to launch a judicial review action – ruling at a High Court hearing in London that there was insufficient evidence to show that the Ministry of Justice might have acted unreasonably. The judge heard that the cremated remains of more than 40 bodies – thought to be at least 5,000 years old – were removed from a burial site at Stonehenge in 2008 and ministers gave researchers from Sheffield University permission to keep the bones until 2015.”

While King Arthur was calling for a “day of action” to protest this decision, another group, Pagans For Archaeology, were pleased that scientific exploration of the remains will continue uninterrupted.

“The very reason we know what we do about Stonehenge and the people buried there is due to archaeology, without it you would know naff all about it, the people and the relationship between the two.”

At their website, PFA makes their case for why the retention and study of human remains is important. As for King Arthur, he insists that this “is not a Pagan argument, it is not a Druid argument. It is a matter of common decency.” Stonhenge is matter of great emotional, religious, and psychological import for many Britons. With the London 2012 Olympics fast approaching, you can be sure that the treatment, preservation, and study of this site will continue to be a newsmaking issue.

Maetreum of Cybele Sends Out a Call for Help: The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, in an ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, have sent out an urgent plea for funds as what they hope will be the final trial in the matter approaches.

“All along the Town knew they would lose this battle if we could just get it to trial so they have attempted to bury us under legal motions to break us financially and have spent somewhere between 100 to 150 thousand dollars to do so.  I am sad to report that unless we get significant help in this final stages, they might succeed.  Donations so far have helped but we have had to hire a new attorney at about three times the cost as our original attorney.  She is much more experienced and worth the expense but has informed me that the rest of our case will cost us an approximate additional 10 thousand dollars which simply is impossible for us to come up with ourselves at this stage.

Our priestesses have stepped forward to the point of tens of thousands so far but now we are all broke.  Please, this case is important, a milestone for minority religion rights.  If this can be done to us, a legally incorporated religious charitable organization with full IRS 501 c3 recognition, it literally can be done to any minority religious group.  A victory, which is fairly well assured if we can finish the battle, is especially important when political groups are pushing back against non Christians, clean air and water and the basic concept of taking care of each other and our common planet home.”

The law in this case seems pretty clearly on the side of the Maetreum of Cybele, but Catskill is going to wage a scorched earth legal campaign in hopes the Pagans run out of money and energy first, stating that the town was already too deep into the case to give up and that significant dollars could be saved by preventing exemptions for illegitimate religions.” A court date is set for November 15th. We’ll keep you updated on further developments. For those wanting to an make a tax-deductible donation, you can do so directly via paypal to: centralhouse@gallae.com. Or you can contact them through their website.

In Other News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note series, more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Vivianne Crowley joins Cherry Hill Seminary: Pagan author, former Pagan Federation secretary, and Jungian psychologist Vivianne Crowley has joined the faculty of Cherry Hill Seminary, a distance education institution for professional Pagan ministry. In a recent news update sent to supporters of Cherry Hill, Crowley, the author of works like “Wicca: A Comprehensive Guide to the Old Religion in the Modern World,” expressed excitement at joining CHS.

“I am excited about teaching for the first time Master’s level programmes with groups of Pagan students. I hope that the programmes that I teach at Cherry Hill will help students to deepen their understanding of religious practice and the dynamics that influence Pagan groups. Psychology of Religion is an important discipline for religious leaders and clergy of all faiths in understanding their own spiritual journey and that of those whom they serve, and the issues of Death and Dying are some of the most sensitive and important that we care called upon to deal with in our ministry.”

You can read more from Crowley about joining CHS, here. Vivianne Crowley will be teaching the class “Call of the Dark Mother” with Jennifer Bennett for the Fall semester. Congratulations to both Crowley and CHS!

The Rise of Óðrœrir: A new journal of interest to Pagans, particularly Heathen reconstructionists, has just launched. Óðrœrir” is “a fully downloadable journal dedicated to developing, fostering, and distributing scholastic literature solely regarding the reconstruction of the various pre-Christian religious traditions and cultures of Northern Europe.”

“It is our firm belief that while much of these traditions are completely viable in a modern setting, understanding and implementing them must be achieved through a thorough understanding of their original context.  We also believe that there is too much literature available that falls very short of this mark.  Thus,Óðrœrir is intended to serve as a bastion of literature that is evidence based and consistent with modern standards of academic accuracy and quality.  Articles are peer reviewed by a board ranging of individuals with over forty years of experience in reconstructing “heathen” traditions, to scholars who are currently leaders in the fields of Old Nordic Religion, and Old Nordic Culture.  It is our hope that with these high standards, and with the range of experience that exists on our board, that Óðrœrir will be able to bridge the gap between scholastic wisdom of ancient heathen traditions and the implementation and practice of ongoing ones today.”

The first issue is available for download now, featuring articles on the state of modern Heathenry, reconstructionism in modern Heathenry, Frankish Heathenry and more. You can also network with the creators at the journal’s Facebook page.

PNC-Minnesota Rolls Out Sacred Harvest Festival Coverage: The week-long Sacred Harvest Festival in Minnesota has just wrapped up, and PNC-Minnesota has begun posting personal reflections and reactions from attendees. However, my favorite thing so far from them is this picture of the founding coordinators of PNC-Minnesota: Heather Biedermann, Nels Linde, and Cara Schulz.

As a co-founder of the Pagan Newswire Collective, just knowing that there are a mixture of citizen and professional Pagan journalists starting to take an active interest in covering what happens in our community gives me hope for our collective future. Good job folks, this is only the beginning! Keep an eye on PNC-Minnesota for more Sacred Harvest Festival coverage rolling out this week.

Spirit of Albion Update: The upcoming independent film The Spirit of Albion, a story inspired by the music of Damh the Bard, has just posted its latest production diary.

You can follow Damh’s Bardic blog for updates, as well as the movie’s Facebook page.

Brendan Myers on Pagan Existentialism: Here at Patheos, Star Foster interviews author Brendan Myers about his most recent book “Loneliness and Revelation: A Study of the Sacred,” existentialism, and the value of suffering within modern Paganism.

“I think that any worldview that might deny, or ignore, the suffering and oppression in the world is profoundly immature and unrealistic. Thus if the pagan movement is a mature one, its question is not whether the acknowledgement of human suffering has value, but rather the question concerns what that value is. In the Christian worldview, the notion of Original Sin, and the crucifixion of Christ, put suffering at the very center of the Christian story. Christians, I am sure, would add that the resurrection is equally important. To this I would only comment that Pagans have a fine collection of dying and resurrecting gods who can act as our role models in our own struggles with the “negative.” Mithras, Osiris, Adonis, come to mind as examples, as well as any number of heroes who made an underworld journey, such as Inanna, Persephone, and Orpheus.”

For more on Myers’ work, check out the guest-post he did for this blog last year that touches on some of the same themes.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a new series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Wren’s Nest Closes Down: Yesterday, on the Witches’ Voice Facebook page, site co-founder Wren Walker announced that she was closing down the long-running and popular Pagan news service Wren’s Nest.

“Greetings! As many of you already know – or have discovered via a TWV link – Wren’s Nest is closed. There are new ways by which media and people exchange information. This page is one of them. We would like to thank everyone who supported, shared, commented and otherwise made Wren’s Nest News the resource that it was. It was my heart-felt pleasure and deepest honor to serve you.”

This is truly the end of any era. Wren’s Nest paved the way for sites like mine, and there’s strong evidence that it may have been the very first Pagan blog, certainly the first to deal with Pagan news. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote for Llewellyn’s 2007 Wicca Almanac concerning Wren’s Nest.

“The real revolution regarding Pagans and blogging began in 1997, with the launch of what would become the most popular Web site for Wiccans, Witches, and modern Pagans … While Wren’s Nest never identified itself [as a blog]. It is updated regularly (daily, in fact); it is organized chronologically, with individual posts one can link to, and it allows readers to comment on each post. While Wren rarely opines on the news links and essays she shares with her readership (aside from the occasional “Chirp”), this site proved that blogging is something that could work for Pagans as a mass audience. In the years that followed, many other bloggers have been inspired by (or have simply imitated) Wren’s approach. This paved the way for the blogging community we have now.”

While Wren’s Nest is closed, Wren herself is (along with other Witchvox staffers) still “chirping” news items at The Witches’ Voice Facebook page, so you can still get a selection of daily news items that way. Thank you Wren for your years of service, your contributions will be remembered and honored.

Pagan Health Survey: The American Public Health Association (APHA) has issued a call for papers concerning public health among religious minorities in the United States for their annual conference, and Kimberly Hedrick of the TriWinds Institute is conducting a survey of modern Pagan communities to relate our views concerning health at this event.

“As both a Pagan and cultural anthropologist, I felt it was vitally important that we help policy-makers and service providers understand our needs and beliefs. This will help us to meet the health care needs of our community and build public understanding of our religious and spiritual traditions. I designed the Pagan Health Survey to help people better understand us and our views on health. The results will be combined with what I have gained by being within the Pagan community and sitting in on healing panel discussions, workshops, and so forth, as well as interviews with Pagan clergy and health care practitioners. This research is being funded through my grassroots nonprofit, TriWinds Institute through donations.”

You can access the survey, here. Kimberly Hedrick, who holds a PhD in cultural anthropology, welcomes questions and inquiries into the project, its goals, and her own background. You can either e-mail her, or visit the survey’s Facebook group. To get a statistically significant sample it needs thousands of respondents, and she only has a couple of months to collect the data in time, so she’s asking the Pagan community to help distribute the survey far and wide.

Memorials for Isaac Bonewits: Many special memorial services are being planned for Pagan leader Isaac Bonewits, who passed away on August 12th. The family will be holding a memorial and remembrance of Isaac on August 21st at the First Unitarian Society of Rockland County (FUSRC) in Pomona, NY.

“I lost the love of my life last Thursday, but his life goes on in the influence he’s had on everyone. We will be celebrating his life next Saturday, August 21, in Pomona, NY” – Phaedra Bonewits

Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) is also holding a memorial service for Isaac on August 19th at the Summerland Festival.

“ADF will be holding a Memorial this coming Thursday (Aug. 19) at the Summerland Festival near Yellow Springs, OH at 9pm. We will call on Isaac as our newest Ancestor and also call on the Ancient Wise to welcome him into their midst. Afterwards we will hold a Wake in the dining hall.”

Word is that the ADF memorial ritual will be recorded, and pieces of it made available on the Internet. Other memorials are also being planned as well, check this Facebook thread for updated information to see if there’s one in your area. You may also want to listen to a special memorial episode of Pagans Tonight, which features Phaedra Bonewits, Selena Fox, Ian Corrigan, and Oberon and Morning Glory Zell Ravenheart sharing stories. You can download that show, here.

Covering the Sacred Harvest Festival: PNC-Minnesota is back from Sacred Harvest Festival and they are planning a special series of audio interviews and articles from the event.

“Over the next few weeks, as part of a special series, you’ll have the opportunity to listen to audio interviews with one of the founders of the Sacred Harvest Festival, a young man who arrived at the festival as a practicing Lutheran and left as a newly awakened Pagan, and musical guests such as Murphy’s Midnight Rounders – just to name a few. You’ll read about (and see) a broom that was created on Friday the 13th by at the festival by an artisan for a newly formed coven, the experiences of a man who started attending the festival when he was a young teen and how it has impacted his life, and the honoring of a respected community elder by over 100 people in his teaching lineage. This is just a small sample of was experienced.”

I’m very much looking forward to the coverage, and commend PNC-Minnesota for doing this work. If you haven’t already, subscribe to their site via RSS so you don’t miss a thing!

If You Couldn’t Make it To One of My Appearances: I’ve been giving talks at several festivals and events this past year, but I realize that many of you can’t make it out to see me in person (Bummer!). Luckily, some kind folks at MerryMeet got some excellent audio recordings of the two main talks I’ve been giving: Emerging Trends & The Pagan Movement, and Pagans & the New Media. You can click those links and stream or download my talks! Now you can find out what you have (or haven’t) been missing. Every “um”, “ah”, and awkward pause has been preserved!

Thanks again to the MerryMeet folks for hosting me and treating me so well!

That’s all I have for now, expect a Pagan News of Note soon to catch up on the mainstream news from the last few days.

Have a great day!